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Worth Reading

Our selection of reviews and recommendations of books you will find worth reading from a leadership, inspirational or just interesting point of view.

One hour/per day = one book/per week
= 52 books/per year!

March 2010

Employee Motivation Revolution

Genosinternational, the Australian company behind emotional intelligence, has produced this short video clip to highlight the complexities behind what motivates and de-motivates people, with some surprising statistics drawn from their research in Australia and the US. Watch this with your team; discuss how well it relates to your situation.

Annie Pannow, one of our associates, reflected: "It puts into perspective the implications of real workplace diversity. We can have diversity in terms of gender, race, age, qualifications etc etc but this video highlights diversity at an even more basic humanistic level. You may think you have a homogeneous workplace but the reality may be very different."

February 2010

Book cover - Drive: The suprising truth about what motivates us

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

By Daniel H. Pink

Dan Pink, a career analyst, draws on scientific research to explain what motivates people today: why rewards work only when there is a clear set of rules and a clear definition of the goal; how in the 21st century, solutions are not so obvious and we need right brain conceptual thinking to find them.

People are motivated, he says, by the need to do things because they matter, because we like it and they are interesting and because they are part of something important. Those three drivers that motivate us:

  • Autonomy - the urge to direct our own lives
  • Mastery - the desire to get better and better at something that matters
  • Purpose - a yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

Read about the book >>>

See the video and hear Dan Pink in person:

January 2010

The Story Of Stuff

This 20 minute video, with it's simple graphics and lively pace simplifies the whole complex story of production and consumerism linked to the underlying environmental and social issues that are difficult to get your head around. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Check out the background to The Story of Stuff Project and view also The Story of Cap and Trade at TheStoryOfStuff.com

Book cover - What Happens Now by Seth Godin

What Matters Now:
Things to think about and do this year

by Seth Godin

Blogger Seth Godin has produced a Free eBook, 'What Matters Now', a collection of 200 word essays from many industry and thought leaders on the subject, 'one word that matters to me right now'. You can download the book or you can buy the printed edition whereupon all proceeds go to a charity. Think too about the one word that matters most to you.

Read about the project and download the book here >>>

Remaining Unread. The Top Ten Reasons We Don't Get To Certain Books

I started this holiday with a pile of books, determined to face-down fatigue. Most are still piled up.

Each month I've highlighted books, or documentaries, I've read, seen or come across. What I've never acknowledged are the books piled up by the bedside or listed for reading 'sometime'. More than a lifetime's supply. Want to know why they sit unread? This article from AbeBooks.com explains it all - the top 10 reasons why we let some books pile up unread.

They'll spark your interest, add to your own list - and just possibly lead to a good read.

November 2009

Book Cover - Hundred Percenters

Hundred Percenters:
Challenge Your Employees to Give It Their All and They’ll Give You Even More.

by Mark Murphy

(2009) McGraw-Hill.

This month I’m recommending you to consider a book that I've ordered but haven’t yet read. Why? Because I'm always impressed by the work of Mark Murphy’s company Leadership IQ. It's based firmly on research and offers practical and useable strategies for people in leadership positions at any level. Plus, this book seemingly challenges the SMART Goals we use in coaching. I’m sure you'll hear about this book from me again.

Here's what the author claims: "Employees cannot be bribed or coddled into giving 100%. People become Hundred Percenters not because they had it easy, but because a leader cared enough to push them to new heights."

Read what reviewers say >>>

"Their studies are quoted everywhere (Fortune, Forbes, Business Week, CBS News, ABC News, etc.) and they actually tackle topics nobody else dares to touch.... If you want to truly understand leadership, you need to read this book". Aaron Moles

"By the time I finished Chapter One of Hundred Percenters, I not only had justification of my long held suspicion that SMART goals are not all that smart, I also knew what to use in their place--- HARD goals: Heartfelt, Animated, Required and best of all, Difficult. HARD goals inspire and push everyone involved to give way more than the status quo". Lynn Adler

October 2009

The Age of Stupid

by Franny Armstrong

It's been described as an Eco-Documentary and by the Sydney Morning Herald reviewer as "an engaging and urgent attempt to make us all see sense about climate change. The film is a wake-up call with an elegiac tone - not quite hectoring but pressing. It goes well beyond the arguments about science that Al Gore tried to straighten out in An lnconvenient Truth. This is about human nature, greed and personal responsibility. It aims to scare and galvanise - and it's pretty good at both."

It gives us six stories filmed in the present day and, surprisingly given the reviews and acclaim, it seems to have been given a single opening in each country. It's bound to be screened by environment and community groups; the DVD is due for release soon in he UK.

August 2009

Book Cover - Walking the Camino

Walking The Camino
a modern pilgrimage to Santiago

by Tony Kevin

(2007) Scribe Publications.

Winner, ACT Book of the Year 2008

I'm always talking to leaders about taking time out to stop and reflect. In the busyness of life it is so easy o let that life slip by. I don't always manage this so well myself and perhaps talking about it keeps the subject uppermost in my mind too.

Never have I considered though the idea of taking extended time off purely to think about where I'm at, where I want to go. Having read this book, and I loved it, the seeds have been sown. Tony Kevin, a former Australian Diplomat set off in 2006 with just a small backpack and staff to walk The Camino, an 8 week trek across Spain. It was a pilgrimage, a ersonal journey to ‘find some answers to the complexities of life’.

From Granada, in the southeast, to Santiago de Compostela, in the far northwest, the writer followed the Via Mozarabe and the Via de la Plata, two of the many pilgrim trails that lead to the cathedral city of Santiago de Compostela, Europe's most famous centre of pilgrimage in Medieval times. Today the pilgrimage is made by thousands of people each seeking perhaps, in their own way, to make sense of our frenetic materialistic world.

The walk is long and exhausting – crossing high mountain ranges to flat dry lowlands – and we share the journey through stories. Essentially he travels alone, his insight deepening into ‘a personal and impressionistic account’ as he leaves his old life behind for the moment, unwinding into a sense of peace and fulfillment.

We may not all be able to take the time off, although I've now met a CEO who took one whole year off to decide his direction. Nonetheless the book inspires reflection about such a move. Life is so short and if our current situation is the result of chasing materialistic goals we might do well to stop and jump off for a short while.

May 2009

Book Cover - The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley

The Unthinkable: Who survives when disaster strikes.
by Amanda Ripley

(2008) Random House Books.

The book is very topical at this moment when we have Swine Flu edging towards a pandemic and an economy melting down in the background. However, when I read it earlier this year my initial reaction was it's relevance to the financial crisis. So, what does it have to with leadership or workplace relationships?

The book addresses major calamities like earthquakes, plane crashes and of course terrorist threats and the 9/11 disaster and its message every time is that ordinary people have an amazing ability to respond calmly and decisively in the face of ‘unthinkable’ crises; if they are informed, know how to respond and in certain cases have had the opportunity to practice.

In short, the message is positive and one that leaders could well learn from, even in response to what is happening around us today - to keep people informed, to empathise with them and share concerns so that everyone can prepare themselves.

Amanda Ripley is an Award Winning journalist with TIME Magazine, so the book is highly readable without the hyperbole that could be a part or a book like this. She's researched widely, looking for scientific explanations for why people behave as they do. Even if you don't see a link to these stories in your workplace, the book is still worth reading. Go to www.amandaripley.com

Read an excerpt from The Unthinkable >>>

April 2009

Book Cover - Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

Outliers: The story of success by Malcolm Gladwell

(2008) Allen Lane.

This was a Christmas present and held me glued to the pages for two whole days - when I wasn't eating.

Let me start with the promo, which got me interested in the first place – "Gladwell argues that when we try to understand success, we normally start with the wrong question. We ask ‘what is this person like?’ when we should really be asking ‘where are they from?’ The real secret of success...hinges on a few crucial twists in people's life stories – on the culture they grow up in and the way they spend their time."

I've done that, probably you too. Whenever we think about leaders, about why someone is so successful, so extra-ordinary; why another thrives on change, while we procrastinate or stumble in self doubt, we ask that same question. And we assume they are more talented or wealthy, excusing ourselves in that assessment. Read this book and set a new goal for yourself. Success lies in chance, cultural background - and personal commitment.

Gladwell explores the stories of Bill Gates, the Beatles, societies that were amazingly healthy, sports teams, his own racial history, and a school that guarantees success for disadvantaged kids. Are we too late now? Has chance passed us? Is our background a millstone round our necks? Not at all. The point is to learn from these stories and grab opportunities (chance), look to your background for strengths and try anyway (commitment).

My favourite is The 10,000-Hour Rule. Gladwell argues that without exception, every successful person has ‘practised’ for 10,000 hours. Look around at the people you admire, who you assess as far more talented than you, and see how much more effort they have applied to their success than you have to your own. It all comes down to personal choice and determination – well, plus a modicum of talent.

Malcolm Gladwell is also the author of The Tipping Point and Blink.

Read excerpts from the book and an interview with author >>>

March 2009

Barack Obama speaking at Plainfield

Dreams From my Father by Barack Obama

(1995) Melbourne, Text Publishing.

Whoever could have predicted it? The President of the United States, risen from a background like Barack Obama's.

This book is a must. It's his account of his journey to discover and explain the 'chance' of his birth that left him struggling to find a place where he belonged, the inspiration he drew from all the people that formed his background, African, American, Indonesian; and the commitments he made to change first communities for the better, then the US – and beyond.

Journalists rightly urge readers not to look to him as the next Messiah; economists point to the enormity of the job ahead; politicians are cynical about whether his dreams of peace can be achieved through collaboration and dialogue. But he has come this far, using the same strategies.

Yes he's got intellect, but definitely not wealth. Above all though he is sincere about the need for social justice and he has an absolute focus on what he believes is possible. Barack Obama is a brilliant writer – I'm now looking at "The Audacity of Hope".

Read an excerpt from Dreams From My Father >>>